As a goodbye from the News team, we looked back through every issue of The Badger this year and selected a few of the best stories we’ve broken. We’ve revisited them, and here is what has been going on since we first reported on them.
Islamophobia on campus: 5 months on
The President of the Islamic Society has said a friendly football coaching session between a group of men who shouted Islamophobic abuse outside the Muslim Prayer Centre and members of the Islamic Society will be arranged this summer.
In late November 2015, immediately following the grisly terrorist attacks in Paris, we reported that six men wandered onto campus after a session at the Seagulls’ stadium, whereupon they popped a balloon outside the Muslim students’ dedicated space and allegedly shouted: “ISIS are coming!”
The six perpetrators were later identified, using CCTV footage, as participants in a scheme run by Albion in the Community, Brighton & Hove Albion’s charitable arm.
Albion responded swiftly, suspending the men from their programme.
But Ridwan Barbhuiyan, President of the Islamic Society, extended a hand to the disgraced footballers. He told The Badger he was adamant that he wanted to meet the men, to give both sides a chance to “get to know each other”.
He said: “Hopefully, rather than a divisive community, we can instead build one united on mutual respect and understanding”.
Albion in the Community suggested a coaching session, and Mr Barbhuiyan has confirmed a kickabout will take place one sunny day after the exam period.
According to an Albion spokesperson, the six men apologised for their behaviour and are now back on the football programme over at the Amex, having served a suspension period.
People with disabilities face 120 campus obstacles: 2 months on
In February a report from Sussex Estates and Facilities revealed that there are 120 “high priority issues” with the campus’ accessibility features. The Access Sussex campaign hoped the report would lead to the university taking “urgent action” to implement changes. The campaign stated that in order to make substantial improvements to life on campus for disabled students, the University needed to establish an Equality and Diversity Officer. A proposal for the university to appoint an Equality and Diversity Officer was put forward by SU Welfare Officer Rianna Gargiulo, but this proposal was not accepted.
Since February, an Equality and Diversity Officer has not been appointed, though a new head of the Campus Accessibility Forum, Jayne Townsend, will be taking over soon. The Campus Accessibility Forum have requested several reports to investigate the standards of the University’s accessibility features, including the report released last February. In light of the report, the University will be funding improvements on the campus. Though the exact amount of funding that will be given is not yet known, the proposed amount is around £100,000. What the funding will be going towards specifically is not yet confirmed.
When asked to comment on the progress of improving accessibility on campus, the University commented: “It is true that this audit has highlighted a large number of recommendations and with this in mind a submission for a specific budget, on the region of £100,000, has been put forward to the Annual Project Planning Board for the academic year 2016/17.”
Once funding is agreed this will not be released until 1st August. The Campus Accessibility Forum will use this time, with the assistance of a SEF Project Manager, to prioritise and programme the works.”
This January the University announced a fire alarm safety system for deaf students, which lets students connect to the fire alarm system with their mobile. Gargiulo commented on the new system on the SU website, saying: “I’m glad the University have put students’ safety first and on this occasion acted directly on feedback from hearing impaired students and staff in our community. There is of course still plenty to do, hopefully the next step is to introduce DMS to all campus halls of residence so hearing-impaired students on campus. can feel safe in their residences.”
Scholarships for Syria: 7 months on
Freya Marshall Payne
In our first issue this year we announced that Sussex would be offering a postgraduate scholarship of 20% for two students from either Syria, Lebanon or Jordan, starting in 2016, and that there would be a further scholarship to fund the full cost of two Palestinian students’ postgraduate courses. This was all part of what the university at the time called its aim to “foster academic ties with the Middle East and North Africa”. They further expanded this initiative in November 2015 when they announced “50 English language scholarships for Syrian refugees. According to the university, “each scholarship is worth up to £10,000 per student and will cover the full course tuition fees together with £100 per week contribution towards living costs”.
The scholarships covered “courses (which were) for five, 10, 16 or 28 weeks in preparation for university study” although the students were not guaranteed places on Sussex undergraduate courses afterwards.
The Badger has recently discovered that, although the postgraduate scholarships are going to plan, these 50 English language scholarships may never be given.
This reporter was present at a recent meeting between the #Don’tDeportLuqman campaign and Vice-Cancellor Clare Mackie; the meeting was recorded with the permission of all attendants. Ms Mackie admitted that the University had been unable to bring any of the refugees over to Britain because of government regulations.. Mackie said that “we have £500,000 ring-fenced for the English-language scholarships” and that she would approach the rest of senior management to discuss re-purposing the money for a number of full undergraduate scholarships for refugees, which is one of the #Don’tDeportLuqman demands.
A University of Sussex spokesperson said: “We are currently working through the options for how the money could be allocated and are looking at the scheme for Syrian students enrolling in the next academic year or funding being transferred to various similar hardship or scholarship projects.
“We’re extremely eager to get enrolment underway. We have some important national and local Government requirements and regulations to consider, which we’re working through. We need to make sure that any benefits and bursaries we offer to students do not impact their ability to qualify for benefits elsewhere. We will publish full details, including the application process as soon as possible.”